I must have watched the movie Twister nearly 30 times. You could say I was slightly obsessed with the critically-panned 90s blockbuster about storm-chasing starring Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton. Tornados are just one of those things that both terrify and fascinate me at the same time, like sharks, religious cults or the history of the bubonic plague. I may have also developed an awkward adolescent crush on Bill Paxton at the time. But back to the twisters. I’ve never seen one in real-life, although I have a feeling that if I did, my first instinct would be to get my camera out. And it turns out that more than a century ago, when photography was still only in its very early stages of developing into a mass medium, people living in tornado country had the very same instinct.
The National Geographic claims that this harrowing image is the oldest known photograph of a tornado, taken on April 26, 1884 at Garnett, Kansas. Some dispute its authenticity, suggesting it’s a product of some early photoshopping skills and the University of Tulsa claims a photograph they acquired taken in 1896 by a Mr. Thomas Croft (below) is in fact the first known photograph of a tornado.